Lawyers Should Be Lawyers, But What Does that Mean?: A Response to Aiken & Wizner and Smith
52 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2012
Date Written: January 1, 2004
Lawyers should be more like social workers. That is the message of Law as Social Work, the provocative essay by Jane Aiken and Stephen Wizner (Aiken & Wizner) in the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy volume, which preceded the conference on Promoting Justice Through Interdisciplinary Teaching, Practice, and Scholarship, hosted by Washington University School of Law in March 2003. Almost as if in reply, Abbe Smith’s contribution to the same pre-conference volume reasserts the importance of lawyers as zealous and partisan advocates, using the realities of the criminal defense context to argue for the value of the lawyer’s traditional adversarial role.
This article begins with a review of the Aiken & Wizner and Smith articles, pointing out the themes that are common to both and the tensions in their competing visions of justice and professionalism. The second part of the article explores the tensions between the professional perspectives of lawyers and social workers, as reflected in those differing conceptions of social justice, and analyzes how those differing visions affect issues of systemic role and relationships with clients. The third part turns to a discussion of how these tensions have played out in the field of juvenile justice, in which law and social work have historically interacted. The article concludes by affirming the traditional adversarial ethical role of lawyers, while further suggesting ways in which the work of lawyers can be broadened and enhanced by embracing some aspects of the social work perspective.
Keywords: Social worker, social work, Promoting Justice Through Interdisciplinary Teaching, partisan lawyer, adversarial role, social justice, relationship, ethics
JEL Classification: K00, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation